It is important to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, as sun exposure can have both short- and long-term consequences on our health. The most effective and common form of sun protection is sunscreen. Sunscreen is a lotion, spray, gel, or other topical product that helps protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays. It absorbs, reflects, and/or scatters the sun’s ultraviolet rays and is rated based on the sun protection factor (SPF).
Using sunscreen on a regular basis can protect skin from early skin aging and skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with a large percentage of skin cancer cases caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. The risk of skin cancer increases with age, but everyone should make use of a sunscreen, no matter what age.
When to Wear Sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied daily, even on cloudy days, as UV radiation from the sun can penetrate the clouds. Depending on your personal sun sensitivity, it is advised to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or more, 15 minutes before heading outside.
A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays, while ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide help protect the skin against the sun’s rays. SPF also prevents sunburn, but it doesn’t make you invincible, so it’s important to still take adequate measures to protect your skin, such as wearing protective clothing, avoiding peak UV hours (10 am-4 pm), and seeking shade.
Other Sunscreen Tips
It’s important to keep yourself and your family properly protected from the sun’s dangerous UV rays, so here are a few tips and tricks:
- Check the expiration date and toss expired sunscreen – this is especially important because older sunscreen may be less effective, which is your first line of defense from UV rays.
- Apply sunscreen liberally and frequently – it is recommended to apply a full ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen all over your body, and to reapply it every 2 hours.
- Don’t forget the lips and ears – many burn-free sunscreens contain ingredients that can be irritating to the lips, so it is best to use a lip balm with SPF 50.
- Choose hats and sunglasses with UV protection – wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a sun-protective clothing, and UV-protective sunglasses give an added layer of protection from UV rays.
At the end of the day, applying sunscreen and following the tips above can reduce your risk of harmful UV radiation and protect your skin from sunrelated health issues. Sunscreen is the single most important form of protection that you can use to help protect your skin and your overall health.